The Future of North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (Legislation and Policy)

Article excerpt

[The following is the testimony presented to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, DC, May 1, 2002.]

I would like to begin by thanking you and other members of this Committee and the Senate for your strong and consistent support for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has helped ensure it remains the greatest alliance in history. It has been a privilege and my good fortune to have had the opportunity to consult with you and take your advice over the years on NATO. I look forward to continuing this dialogue and consultation in the future. I appreciate your invitation today at a time when the future of NATO is being actively discussed on both sides of the Atlantic. I welcome this debate. Our governments, our parliaments and our public ought to talk about the future of NATO. That is what democratically supported foreign and defense policy is all about.

The, attacks of September 11, 2001 and NATO's response prove to me NATO's continuing value in a world of new and unpredictable threats. Invoking Article 5 for the first time in history, NATO sent a clear message that the alliance is united and determined. We greatly value NATO's collective response, as well as the contributions of individual allies. Fifty years of NATO cooperation made natural the participation of allied forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) have logged over 3,000 hours patrolling American skies. All NATO allies have provided blanket overflight rights, access to ports and bases, refueling assistance, and stepped up intelligence efforts. Sixteen of our allies are supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Noble Eagle with military forces and capabilities. Fourteen allies have deployed forces in the region, and nine are participating in combat operations with us in eastern Afghanistan as we speak.

Almost all contributors to the International Security Assistance Force, initially led by Britain and soon by Turkey, are current allies, aspiring allies, or countries who have trained with NATO in the Partnership for Peace (PfP). Their varied contributions include air reconnaissance, refueling, cargo, and close air support missions, special forces missions, specialized nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons units, mine clearing and medical units, and naval patrols. Altogether allies and partners have deployed nearly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan.

NATO's actions in response to September 11, 2001 come as no surprise to me. Throughout its history, NATO has adapted to meet new threats and seize new opportunities. NATO still matters. Nothing illustrates this fact better than the number of countries seeking to join. Secretary Powell made this point last week, observing that countries want to join "because they want to be a part of a political and security organization that is anchored in its relationship with North America."

NATO Today: Enduring Values and Common Purposes. When President Bush and his counterparts meet in Prague later this year, their gathering will symbolize the changes that have taken place in Europe and NATO's central role in making these changes possible.

Prague: Once Behind an Iron Curtain. Prague: synonymous in a famous spring in 1968 with rebellion against oppression and thirst for democracy. And in 1991, Prague hosted the meeting that dissolved the Warsaw Pact. In 2002, NATO leaders will come to Prague to continue shaping that new Europe and to reaffirm the strength, unity and vitality of the Atlantic Alliance.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization remains a fundamental pillar of our foreign and defense policy. As President Bush said last month, NATO remains "an anchor of security for both Europe and the United States."

I have just returned from meeting with all of our Allies at NATO. I then traveled to eight Allied capitals to consult on our agenda for Prague. We proposed that Prague be defined by three themes: New Capabilities, New Members, and New Relationships. …